Giving a helping hand: Meet Fern Hatcher, BScN student at Saint Francis Xavier University

Originally hailing from Newfoundland, Fern Hatcher has spent the past eight years working as an LPN providing health services for inmates at the Central Nova Correctional Facility. When she’s not on shift, she’s also a third-year nursing student at Saint Francis Xavier University, and just over a year away from earning her BScN. 

“As a nurse, I love being an advocate,” said Hatcher. “Working with a vulnerable population has allowed me to see this firsthand. Everyone at some point in life needs a helping hand, a listening ear, a supportive person and someone who will not judge them.”

Hatcher chose to complete St. FX’s online bridging program, which has allowed her to keep working full time while studying. She notes that although there have been some bumps along the way, and it has been a lot of work, it has been manageable.

“I am much stronger that I thought I was,” said Hatcher. “With three children at home, being a single mom and working full-time has been challenging, but I am proud to have made it this far and being so close to earning my degree.”

Although it’s an important investment, tuition for these courses can be expensive. In order to help support her studies, Hatcher decided to apply for the Gail Martell-Denne Memorial Bursary. Established in 2017, this annual award provides financial assistance to nurses who are furthering their education as either a full or part time student.

“Receiving the Gail Martell-Denne Memorial Bursary in 2020 was a tremendous help,” said Hatcher. “To receive funding to help off set the costs is wonderful. When I graduate, there will be less debt that I will be responsible for paying back. It is also wonderful to have these bursaries available, and know that there is continued financial support to help LPNs continue their education if they wish to do so.”

Hatcher strongly encourages anyone interested and eligible to apply for the bursary. She has even passed the information on to colleagues who are upgrading, so they knew how to apply, and hopes to see them receive a helping hand as well. 

With just a few classes and a clinical placement left, Hatcher looks forward to May 2023, where she will receive her degree with her children by her side. And, she’ll be wearing her X ring with pride.

“I am forever preaching to my children that education is the key, it will open so many doors and provide endless opportunities,” said Hatcher. “I also feel a sense of pride that they have seen me go through NSCC and graduate with honours from the LPN program, and be able to go to university for the first time at the age of 38 to upgrade and earn my degree.”

“They inspire me to always do better and never give up on my dreams,” continued Hatcher. “They see me showing up each day, giving my best as tired as I am, and never giving up no matter how difficult it may be,” says Hatcher. “They tell me all the time ‘mama, you got this,’ and that’s all the encouragement I need.”

Although Hatcher’s children may serve as her inspiration, it’s clear that she is having a significant impact on them as well. Her oldest will graduate from Citadel High this year, and has a goal of becoming a pediatric surgeon who specializes in cardiology.

Scholarships and funds, like the Gail Martell-Denne Memorial Bursary, help our healthcare workers pursue new educational opportunities. This investment is helping to ensure that Nova Scotia has the best healthcare professionals in the country and around the world. For more information on the Gail Martell-Denne Memorial Bursary, visit the Nova Scotia Health website.